The UK Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to overturn a court ruling in favour of same-sex and unmarried couples adopting.
Northern Ireland's Minister for Health, Edwin Poots, tried to challenge an appeal court's decision that paved the way for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in the region.
A spokesman for the UK’s supreme court said it had “refused permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision in this matter”.
At present a single gay or lesbian person can adopt in Northern Ireland but a couple in a civil partnership cannot.
A challenge to the legislation was mounted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which was backed by an unidentified lesbian woman who wants to enter into a civil partnership and be able to adopt her partner's biological child.
Unmarried couples in Great Britain can apply jointly to be considered for adoption irrespective of sexual orientation. However, anyone unmarried in Northern Ireland is only eligible for consideration as an individual.
The commission challenged the law and the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled in its favour in June. – (PA)